Doing Life Together

smaller worryWhen I wrote the chapter on Sex and Affection in my latest book, We Need to Talk, I referenced the infidelity site I couldn’t believe a website  promoted married dating. A a therapist, I know how devastating an affair can be to a couple, a family, the church or place of employment.

The website’s motto, Life is Short, Have an Affair, does nothing but propagate the myth that infidelity is harmless. The website’s promise to be 100% discreet is obviously no longer valid, but its tag line, as the most recognized and reputable married dating service, is equally flawed. How can married dating be reputable? You are helping people secretly cheat, an ingredient to destroy relationships.

Married dating, as AshleyMadison calls it, is a throw back to the sexual revolution of the 1960s when immorality was reframed as empowerment, and choice was supposed to not have consequences. But choice did and still does. Secretive married dating doesn’t ends well. While it is possible to work through an affair,  your partner may not be willing and the consequences can be life long.

So what do we learn from the AshleyMadison outing? The same lessons we already know:

1) Lies and secrecy lead to relationship diaster. Healthy relationships are built on trust. Without the foundation of trust, intimacy doesn’t grow. No one wants to be transparent with someone they can’t trust. And what is hidden will one day be revealed, bringing light to the mistrust.

2) Secrets birth betrayal. For some, betrayal will cost more than anticipated. It may be too much to recover from and sets the stage for wondering what else has been a lie. Secrets are kept. Emotional distance grows. A coalition with another person is formed. The betrayer has to justify their actions and thoughts by continuing to turn away from their partner. This purposeful behavior is rationalized and justified.

3) Whatever the short term need an affair meets, does not fix the root problem. If the root is a lack of intimacy, sexual satisfaction, or boredom, an affair is like masturbation. It only satisfies the person and does nothing to help the relationship. Infidelity is typically the result of something that has been simmering below the surface of a relationship. For example, discontent, loneliness, and resentment are produced by negatively comparing the person to someone perceived to be better. Betrayal can be fueled by all sorts of relationship issues—marital dissatisfaction, family problems, friendships that have become too close, physical proximity, spiritual decline, convenience, sexual stimulation, need for love and validation, and more.

4) The unintended consequences of married dating reaches far beyond the couple— The possibilities of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, emotional fall out, regret, guilt, shame and psychological distress are realities of allowing hormones to drive behavior. Families are destroyed, communities shaken. Yet, these consequences are rarely shown or talked about in the media.

Sex is never truly casual, but instead creates a biological bonding with another person. When a sexual betrayal happens, it is devastating. The breach of trust is enormous. The covenant relationship is broken. And one has to ask, was it worth the price?


For more help: We Need To Talk by Dr. Linda Mintle

workLabor Day! Fire up the barbecue, head to the beach or hike that mountain trail! Most of us think of this as a welcomed day off, marking the end of summer and the beginning of school and work for the Fall semester. Football begins and we gear up for another season.

Growing up, it meant putting away the white shoes and pants and pulling out the autumn clothes, a barbecue with friends and a day to rest. But is Labor day about more than a wardrobe change?

When I asked several people the meaning of the holiday, most had no idea-just a free day off for the last long weekend of summer. In fact, the name implies it is a day of work, the day we labor. Some were confused by that. Why call it a day to labor when we are doing the opposite?

Originally Labor Day was meant to honor the working class and proposed by the Central Labor Union of New York. The federal government made it a holiday in 1894 to honor people whose hard work, mostly physical and manual labor, built this country. The holiday has continued to be on the first Monday of September since that date.

So while we have broadened the concept to celebrate work in general, use this holiday to be grateful that you have a job. If you are looking for a job, keep looking. Work is good for your health and well-being. Research (G. Waddell and A.K. Burton, 2006) shows that unemployment leads to a deterioration in mental and physical health. Unemployed people have higher sickness rates and disabilities. And when people return to work, their overall health improves.

While it may not always feel like it and some days the stress of work feels overwhelming, work is good for you when it comes to overall well-being. But we can all use a three-day weekend every now and then. Enjoy yours!!!

shopping cartThe other day, I ran into the grocery store to pick up a last minute item for dinner. As I meandered through the aisles trying to find the one item I needed, I noticed the checkout lines were long and dotted with carts of overflowing groceries. But then I spied the lone express checkout line and breathed a sign of relief. I was pressed for time and needed to get in and out of that store quickly.

Directly over the cash register of the express line was a large and well-placed sign, 12 items or less. There were three people ahead of me in line, two with one item each. But the woman in directly in front of me- a tall, nicely dressed blond with two cute little girls, didn’t make eye contact and her cart was spilling over with groceries, grossly past the 12-item limit.

So I paused. Do I say something? I really was in a hurry and that was the purpose of the express line! Making sure I didn’t sound angry, I made eye contact and said, “I don’t know if you noticed but this is the express line.” I was kind, smiled and gave her the benefit of the doubt. After all, I’ve stood in that line, dazed, with too many groceries completely oblivious to the fact that I was in the wrong line. When it was brought to my attention, I apologized and moved. Not this woman.

She turned to me and made a very sarcastic remark. Her daughters looked up at mommy and probably wondered what this mean lady was doing to mommy to make her so angry. Mommy was clearly miffed and became instantly rude to me.

Honestly, I was a little taken aback by her anger and thought, wow, this much anger over a simple request to follow the rules. Was this rudeness really warranted? I wanted to be her therapist for the moment (of course she was not asking me to be in that role). What message was she sending her children—break the rules and then be rude to someone who calls you on it?

It seems like a small thing but how often do we feel entitled to do what we want to do regardless of how it impacts others or breaks rules? What are we teaching our kids who watch us speed because we need to be somewhere, cut in line because our time is more important than those who wait, or are rude in public because we are overly stressed.

The way we respond to small things indicates the state of our hearts. When entitlement and anger rear up over something small and insignificant, it’s time to pause and ask,

Am I too stressed?

Do I have an anger problem?

Do I feel entitled?

If the answer is YES to any of these questions, then a little stress and anger management can go along way. All of us probably need to take a deep breath and relax and realize that an extra 10 minutes in line isn’t going to ruin our day.

For more help with anger and stress, check out Dr. Linda’s book, Breaking Free from Anger and Unforgiveness


LightbulbWhen you contemplate a beautiful work of art by van Gogh, you sense the genius and creativity behind it. What mind envisions such beauty and is able to capture it on a canvas?

Or how about when you read the famous works of Virginia Woolf or Earnest Hemingway. Both were believed to be brilliant, creative and possibly bipolar.

Creativity requires a person  to think out of box. It taxes the mind from moments of what feel like insanity to the sublime.

The line between madness and creativity can sometimes be blurred. Out of that struggle, musicians produce beautiful sonnets and we are awed. Poets touch our hearts and painters create masterpieces like The Scream.  But is there a price to pay for this type of creative brilliance? Perhaps.

A new study tells us that the van Goghs of the world may have traits of bipolar disorder. Researchers assessed children at the age of eight for IQ. These same children were then assessed for  manic traits (used to diagnose bipolar disorder) at the age of 22-23. Those with high verbal IQs scored highest on the manic traits. This suggests that it could be possible that the genes that express creativity and high IQ may also express manic behavior if the environment is right.

Previous studies have also linked bipolar to high IQ and creativity, especially in those fields where verbal skills are used. This doesn’t mean that having a high IQ is dangerous. A high IQ provides many advantages. But it could mean that given the right environment, those risk factors that contribute to the expression of manic genes could be activated and result in bipolar disorder. And if we know the traits to look for early, we may be able to help some people sooner.

So behind every creative genius isn’t a mental illness! But traits of mental illness could be expressed in some creative geniuses who possess risk factors. Like all genetic predispositions, expression takes the right combination of environmental factors. And even then, those traits can be modified.